Dress for Health

by Mark Sandoval, M.d.

When we think about being healthy, many of us don’t think about our dress and how it impacts our health. Does it really make a difference? And if so, what are the principles of dress that impact health? For proper function, each cell of your body needs a sufficient supply of nutrients from the blood and an unobstructed nerve supply. You need good circulation and a good nerve supply to be good and healthy. And how you dress affects the blood supply and nerve impulses that your cells need. The blood vessels respond to heat and cold. They dilate (increase blood flow) in response to heat, and they constrict (reduce blood flow) in response to cold. If you cover part of your body with clothing and leave other parts uncovered, or if you cover part of the body with thick layers and leave other parts of the body thinly covered, the amount of blood flow to the parts that are exposed is less than those parts that are covered, causing unequal circulation. To the degree that the surface temperature of the skin is different between one part of the body and another, will be the degree to which the circulation is uneven. This unequal covering of the body is one way that we negatively impact our health.

You may not notice the effects of uneven circulation right away, but over months and years you may begin to experience worsening heart failure, digestive disease, menstrual cramping and irregularities, headaches, varicose veins, edema, and more.You may be thinking, “That’s all good and fine in cold weather, but where I live it is hot, so it really doesn’t make a difference.” What you haven’t realized is that to the degree that clothing protects you in cold weather is the degree to which clothing protects you in hot weather. In weather above body temperature, clothing decreases the radiant heat from the sun and surrounding environment that would warm you up, and it decreases the convection currents (wind) that would heat you up faster. It protects you from wind burn, sunburn, scrapes and cuts, and insect bites.

The U.S. military has spent millions of dollars studying dress and its impact upon health for the performance of its soldiers, and if you see how soldiers are dressed in desert and jungle situations, they are fully and evenly clothed. Why? Because that type of clothing promotes the best health of the soldiers.
Wearing shorts, tank tops or short-sleeved shirts, going topless, wearing heavy coats but thin pants, or having naked legs under skirts or dresses affects the circulation adversely, because of the principle noted above. Going nude, however, doesn’t, but I don’t suggest you try that. There is also the principle of modesty.

A second major principle with dress is how tight or loose it is. To the degree that the clothing is tight is the degree to which blood flow is hindered and nerves are compressed. Tight belts around the waist, tight-fitting underwear, tight bras with underwires, tight socks, abdominal binders, tight pants, neck ties, etc. all contribute to a reduction in blood flow and compression of nerves across the area of tightness. This can contribute to gastroesophageal reflux disease, abdominal pain, belching, painful menses, heart palpitations, lipoatrophia semicircularis, tight pants syndrome, yeast infections, varicose veins, blood clots, inflammation of the adipose (fat) tissue, meralgia paresthetica, and even increased pressure in the eyes.

A final principle that we will cover is: wear shoes that promote optimal health. Shoes that do not promote optimal health are shoes with heels at least 1 inch higher than the toes or greater, shoes with a pointed toe box, and shoes which are flat without sufficient arch support. High heels and shoes with narrow toe boxes alter the alignment of the skeleton, leading to bunions, hammertoes, corns, Morton’s neuromas, metatarsalgia, ankle injuries, pump bumps, increased risk of sprains and fractures, Haglund’s deformity, shortening of the Achilles tendon, calf muscle tightening, spider and varicose veins, osteoarthritis of the knee, misalignment of the spine with back pain/injuries.

Shoes with hard soles and lack of arch support can contribute to plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and stress fractures. And shoes that do not breathe well may be a breeding ground for athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).

So, choose clothing that covers your body evenly, and is not tight, and shoes that are flat, soft, breathable, with good arch support, and you are on your way to better health.

Source: From the August 2017,
Uchee Pines Newsletter, "Emphasis: Your Health". You may subscribe to the Uchee Pines Newsletter here.